“Innovate Public Schools” is coming to disrupt our community public schools

This past Wednesday evening, as several Everett parents were preparing for our annual International Night community event, a Walton funded organization called “Innovate Public Schools” had their own plans. They had organized a meeting with Interim Associate Superintendent Tony Payne at Everett Middle School. Unknown to the administration and staff at Everett Middle School or to Tony Payne himself, the meeting was widely published on social media outlets. “Innovate Public Schools” has a corporate privatizing agenda to diminish resources for local public schools and open charter schools.
Continue reading

Integration – a story of a first year teacher, a special girl who learned how to read, a group of freshmen cheerleaders, and why we need to learn together

On my first day of teaching fourteen years ago, I welcomed 35 students to a first period high school Spanish I class. I cried by the time lunch happened. I could not believe that the state of California had entrusted the care of 160 students to me, and that each student would bring a different set of skills, experiences, attitudes, and abilities. It was an overwhelming feeling of responsibility. And not only did I need to teach all these teenagers how to communicate through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a new language, but one of my students had never learned to read or write, and physically struggled with speech. She was a 14 year old girl with cognitive and gross motor skills impairments. As a county special ed day student, she was to be integrated into two mainstream classes on the school campus. This was her mainstream class, along with art. She was also a Spanish speaker from a monolingual Mexican Spanish speaking family who understood everything I said in Spanish – much more than in English. But she was in my beginning Spanish class. How or what was I going to teach her?
Continue reading

Tracking Students and GATE in SFUSD

In the past few days, the issue of tracking (separating students into different classes based on some measure of ability or aptitude which almost entirely replicates the inequities of our society in terms of class and race) and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) has been the hot topic among SFUSD’s guardians of social justice and the savvy, crunchy, funky, techie, gentrifying, intellectual parent crowd. The ensuing debate has been difficult and edifying for all of us at the middle school and high school level. A group of parents, a few of them my friends, went to this week’s Board Meeting to propose pathways (and clear accountability) to get more kids the challenging curriculum they need. The parents feel that the district has taken away 8th grade Algebra, thus creating difficulties for students to reach Calculus and STEM classes in high school, while replacing it with differentiated learning that seems more theoretical than achievable in the city’s heterogeneous classrooms.
Continue reading

Why I am opting out – a guide for parents

I am a public school teacher in California and I am opting my 5th grader out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Tests this year.

Here is a link to the Opt Out form for San Francisco Unified.

Here is why:

The tests will not help my child’s teacher know my child’s academic strengths and weaknesses. Test scores will not be out until the summer. My child’s current teacher will not be able to use the information to improve instruction in any way for my child this year.

My child will lose many hours of instruction in order to prepare for and take the SBAC tests. This time could be used for more meaningful instruction, such as doing an interesting reading project, a social studies, math, art, music or science research project or doing an end of the school year play.
Continue reading

A Guatemalan Student, Indian Boarding Schools and Cultural Oppression through Standardized Tests

An Indian Boarding School in New Mexico
An Indian Boarding School in New Mexico

One of my newcomer Guatemalan students comes from a Mayan community that observes an old Mesoamerican tradition of dental beautification – he sports gold decorations in his front upper teeth that have been carefully drilled in. The decorations are pretty, and quite unique – he shared with me that two of them form the shape of his initials. As a high school student, he is notoriously good-humored, adolescently forgetful, and a bit lost in his new land, but he has come a long way since January when he wasn’t sure if he should come to school at all.
Continue reading

Tell Congress to roll back standardized testing

COLOR_OUTSIDE

This post is long overdue and it is a call to action.

Tell Congress to roll back standardized testing

In 2002 when I became a teacher, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) became the new name of public education in the United States. This law had a huge effect on how teachers and students would teach and learn together, and how the federal government would recognize, reward and punish individual states, school districts, individual schools, teachers and students for achieving and failing to achieve state assessment standards.

NCLB was a powerful reauthorization of an older federal educational act called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, signed into law under Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. The underlying goal of both ESEA and NCLB was to ensure a quality education for all children regardless of zip code and demographics.

Unfortunately, after 2002, it soon became clear to most teachers working in the public school system, particularly to those who worked with poor kids in poor neighborhoods that NCLB was set up to fail all children rather than to set them up for success.
Continue reading

A letter to my aunt who believes that “the educational system is broken”

Several years ago, I sent an email to my aunt to defend public schools and my role as a public school teacher in the service of our children and our society. This is my story. This is that letter. Please share, and let’s fulfill the hope of public education and honor the wisdom of our teachers.

Tía,

I know that you value me and have honored me before as an educator and teacher in a public school in California.  I don’t want to have to respond to this email because I have a fieldtrip to finish planning for, grading to do, a counselor to send an email to, and some parents to call (not to mention lesson planning to finish).  My school workday, which started at 7:00 a.m., just ended and most students have left, however, in many ways my day is only half-way over as I will be working on and off for the rest of the afternoon, evening and into the night.

I write to you because I cannot agree with the statement that “the educational system is broken.”  I work within the confines of this system everyday, and I know its weaknesses and strengths, its disasters and its triumphs.
Continue reading